A Q&A with Jennifer Browdy
Edwidge Dandicat. Julia Alvarez. Jamaica Kincaid. Gloria Anzaldúa. You’ll find the voices of these incredible writers and others in Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean. Originally published in 2003, Women Writing Resistance highlights the work of sixteen Latin American and Caribbean authors, urgently calling attention to the need to resist against the systemic patriarchal, racist, and exploitative regimes that have ruled their countries. A resource for activists, this timely compilation demonstrates and enacts how women can collaborate across class, race, and nationality, and illustrates the value of this solidarity in the ongoing struggles for human rights and social justice in the Americas. We caught up with editor Jennifer Browdy to ask her about what the new edition of the anthology means to her and for our uncertain times, and what she hopes readers will take away from the book.
Christian Coleman: Tell us what inspired you to put together this anthology.
Jennifer Browdy: As a comparatist, I was struck by how the theme of resistance resonated among women writers from different countries and backgrounds in Latin America and the Caribbean, including US Chicanas and Latinx. I wanted to create an anthology that would spark conversations among these women (and among readers) about the issues that so many women face, in the hopes of creating new solidarities of resistance across all the artificial boundaries that too often divide us.
CC: What was it like to work with these incredible writers?
JB: I learned so much through working with these writers to put together this anthology. They were so generous with their time and talents, and understood immediately what I was trying to do, and why this was bound to be an important collection.
CC: We’re living in such a politically divisive time in history. How do you view writing as an act of resistance?
JB: Writing is one of the most powerful forms of activism, because it can live on into the future, rippling out in unpredictable ways and inspiring so many others. The writers included in Women Writing Resistance are actively reaching out to communicate their perspectives on a whole host of human rights and social justice issues. For them, writing is an act of resistance to all the mainstream forces that too often have silenced and ignored women’s voices. It’s a way of taking back their agency and insisting on being heard.
CC: Women Writing Resistance was originally published in 2003 by South End Press. What does it mean to you to have the anthology reprinted in 2017 by Beacon Press?
JB: When I read through the book again as we prepared the 2017 manuscript, I was impressed by how totally contemporary and compelling these stories, poems, and essays are. In part, this is not good news, because it means that many of the issues these women were writing about in 2003 are unresolved and still need active resistance. For example: the oppression of Indigenous women that Rigoberta Menchú describes is still going on today; the struggle for survival of poor Haitian women described by Edwidge Danticat is still as tough as ever; the murders of young Mexican women in Ciudad Juárez that Marjorie Agosín writes about are still unsolved; the struggle of poor Chicana women to find time and the necessary confidence to write is still going on, as Gloria Anzaldúa describes. In the politically and environmentally cataclysmic year of 2017, we need the clear, strong voices of these Latinx and Caribbean women writers more than ever.
CC: What would you like readers to take away from these essays in our current political climate?
JB: Readers of this anthology will come way with a much deeper awareness and appreciation of the extent to which Latinx and Caribbean women have been actively working for positive social change—through writing and through other forms of resistance—for a very long time. The writers collected here represent the strength and resilience of so many more women, all across Latin America and the Caribbean. In general, women tend to be forward-looking; we never give up working for a better world for future generations. I hope this anthology inspires readers to add their own voices to the chorus and “write resistance” as well, in the service of the better world we know is possible.
About Jennifer Browdy
Jennifer Browdy teaches comparative literature and gender studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. She is also a co-editor of African Women Writing Resistance and Writing Fire: An Anthology Celebrating the Power of Women’s Words. Follow her on Twitter at @jbrowdy and visit her website.